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On the 40th Anniversary of
A Message from
Amelia Platts Boynton
Can you imagine American citizens suffering all manner of repression for more than 60 years - just to be a citizen, and not to be considered chattel? The struggle did not begin nor end with getting the right to vote as a first-class citizen in 1965. Strangely enough, this freedom or privilege was purchased by people of all races who gave themselves: Blood, sweat, tears, as well as death, paying the supreme price for freedom. There are unsung heroes and heroines whom we will never know.
We've come by faith thus far, trusting and praying that we would accomplish our aim, and in many cases we have. In Selma, Alabama, the nucleus of the struggle, we have a black mayor, mayor pro-tem, city councilmen, two judges, a fire chief, county commissioners, and a black county attorney, who happens to be my son, attorney Bruce Carver Boynton, for ten years. Multiply this one county of Alabama and you will get a picture of the gains we have made.
But these accomplishments were of yesteryear. The foundation of our government consists of the principles in our Constitution. Instead of forming a more perfect union to establish life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and to promote the general welfare of its citizens, we have degraded the very core of the Constitution.
The promises to poor kids, for an education if they join the reserves, are turned to nightmares when they return from war with broken bodies and spirits. Tampering with Social Security will send the aged and poor to the poorhouse. Downgrading education prepares graduates for jobs as hamburger flippers.
The fight for the rights of the people, by the people, is now. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never be ours, if we don't stop the madness in the District of Columbia. It will be gloom and doom for America and the world.
Meet Amelia Boynton Robinson:
FIDELIO Interview with Amelia Boynton Robinson, 2005 (check back soon)
Conference Speeches by Mrs. Robinson (Video Archives since 2002)
NVLP Video of Amelia B. Robinson 2003 Visionary (You may have to click twice)
Miscellaneous Links To Articles About
Mrs. Robinson and Bloody Sunday:
http://afroamhistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa100100a.htm (scroll down )
These links represent a small sampling of background material for our readers.
TEXTS and EXCERPTS from Other Articles
(reprinted here in case the links above are broken)
Voting Rights in Selma, Alabama
-Creation of the Jim Crow South
-Resources on the Civil Rights Movement
-Martin Luther King
-Voting Rights Act
The city of Selma, Alabama has again made history. On September 12, 2000 James Perkins, Jr. was elected mayor and will become the first African American in this position. For the past 35 years, Joseph Smitherman, a former segregationist, has been mayor. While Smitherman was mayor during the bloody marches in 1965, he was not a participant in the beatings. However, Smitherman's defeat was met with some remembrance of the marches. Fully aware of the significance of the election of a new mayor, Perkins supporters crossed back and forth over Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of the 1965 marches.
Even more significant is that this outcome would not have occurred if the marches in Selma had not happened 35 years ago. March of 1965 turned out to be a momentous month. By this time, almost 100 years had passed that white Southerners had dominated the political system by denying African Americans the right to vote. Although the 15th Amendment guaranteed that the right to vote could not be infringed upon based on racial discrimination, southerners created ways to exclude them. In Voices of Freedom, Amelia Boynton Robinson provides an example of the barriers faced in Selma. Boynton was one of the few African American registered voters, and as a result, she was able to use her status to vouch for applicants. She recalled that one applicant she vouched for was rejected when he wrote his name across a line. He disputed with the registrar and continued to fill out the application, and upon its completion, he was still rejected.
However, rejection was not unique to this man's experience. The south had developed a system where instead of openly discriminating based on race, literacy tests were used to determine an applicant's eligibility. Under this system, whites were able to register even if they could barely read. On the other hand, African Americans with Ph.D.s could not pass the literacy tests, and consequently, few blacks became registered voters.
By 1964, local activists in Selma became restless with the limited progress gained by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which had been working there for nearly three years. Dissatisfied, the local leaders asked Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) for assistance. Initially, King led mass meetings and then eventually organized marches in Selma. In January of 1965, King led four hundred marchers to the county courthouse. A few days later, teachers marched to the courthouse to demand that the registrar's office open to allow them to register. In another march on February 1, King and 250 marchers were arrested. King was released in early February after the SCLC advertisement of "Letter from a Selma Jail" was published in the New York Times.
Several marches followed, but it was the procession on March 7, 1965, often referred to as "Bloody Sunday", that made history. While King was in Atlanta, 600 marchers gathered outside of Brown Chapel and set out for Montgomery by way of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Acting on orders from Governor George Wallace, Alabama state troopers stood in their pathway and ordered them to turn around. The marchers were then met with billy clubs, tear gas, and bullwhips and were trampled by horses. The attack was televised, and by the time of the second march two days later, whites and blacks from other parts of the country had joined in their struggle. Restrained by a court order, King led them to the bridge, prayed and turned around.
On March 15, President Johnson introduced a voting rights bill to Congress. Meanwhile, it was the next march on March 21 that was finally the last. A federal judged ruled that the marchers must be protected, and President Johnson ordered the Alabama National Guard to protect them. Thirty-two hundred marched across the bridge destined for Montgomery. On August 6, 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer. Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s. New York: Bantam Books, 1990.
Civil Rights Pioneer to Speak at
Brookhaven Lab, March 21, 2002
UPTON, NY - American civil rights pioneer Amelia Boynton Robinson will give a talk on her struggle for racial equality and social justice at noon at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory on Thursday, March 21, in the Laboratory's Berkner Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public. All visitors to the Laboratory age 15 and over must bring a photo ID.
Robinson will be giving her talk to celebrate her 90th birthday as part of a tour called the "Dialogue of Civilizations." This "Dialogue," which aims to bring about peaceful coexistence among nations, is sponsored by the Schiller Institute, a foundation dedicated to the idea of the inalienable rights and dignity of humanity as expressed in the works of the nineteenth century poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller. Robinson is the vice chair of the board of the Schiller Institute. She also is the 1990 recipient of the Martin Luther King Freedom Medal and a member of the board of the Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violent Social Change.
Robinson has labored for the right of Afro-Americans to vote in Selma, Alabama, since the 1930s. Martin Luther King Jr.'s attention was drawn to Selma in the 1960s because of Robinson's personal plea. In March 1965, Robinson was in the forefront of the march from Selma to Montgomery, known as "Bloody Sunday," where she was brutally beaten and gassed. In that year, the battle for the right of African-Americans to vote was won, when the U.S. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act
For more information...
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